Monday, April 25, 2011

Interview with Bryce Ellicott, Part 2

Hello poetry lovers,

Today I'm featuring Part 2 of my interview with Bryce Ellicott. In Part 1 we talked about the relationship between art and science and and how each serves to help us frame and define our experience as human beings. In Part 2 we discuss poetry: how important is authorial intent, and how attached should a poet be to the reader's experience of a poem.


Amy: Recently I posted about the difference between reading a poem with the most common method used today--New Criticism--and by considering an author's biography or other factors that New Criticism tends to ignore. How do you feel about these differences? Do you like to know an author's history before you read his or her work? Do you think it should affect the reader's experience of a poem?

Bryce: I very much hope that any poem I write can stand utterly on its own, whether the reader knows something of me or not. The speakers in my poems are not usually 'me'. If I am writing something autobiographical, it is almost always seen through a fictional lens that changes some of the details.

Poetry is made art, performance art, in the moment of the reading. It isn't static, it is an experience. That experience is a combination of what the author has written, and what the reader brings to the piece. If the author has left room for the reader to come 'in', to find something in the piece that resonates for them, then the author's background isn't important at all. A reader might find something in a poem completely different from what the author was thinking. I like that idea. In fact, it is the hallmark of some of my favorite poetry, that it seems to read my mind. I am of course supplying that, but it is the feeling I love.

I think getting too caught up in a historical view of a poet might actually limit what a reader brings, because they would be subconsciously biasing themselves against anything they think wasn't originally intended. Yet even the poet, when asked, might not know the answer to that, since so much of what happens inside of poetry happens in the inner mind.

Amy: I'm very curious about the word "sari-woven" in your poem "Officemate." It brings to mind something exotic in relation to the speaker, but also something bound or tied up. What does it mean to you?

Bryce: Sari-woven was chosen because it seemed to express several ideas at once. First, that the person in question was of Indian decent - but I wanted to say that in a way that made it clear how much that attracted the speaker of the poem. He finds her exotic and beautiful. I also wanted a feeling of connection - that she was 'woven' to her ethnicity in a way. Or woven to expectations, perhaps. We might get the idea that the speaker is at odds with these expectations, but we do not know if the 'officemate' in question holds resentment, or respect for them.

Amy: Considering an author's intent--if you believe the word "sari-woven" to mean something in particular, do you hope that a reader will perceive that too? Does it matter to you that a reader gain from a poem what you are trying to convey, in addition to their own experience of the poem?

Bryce: As above, no, the reader can feel free to feel or experience what comes naturally. If sari-woven makes them feel like the officemate is bound in some way then that is a valid interpretation. It allows the reader's own imagination to work for them, to create meaning for them from black lines on a screen. And if we look at the meanings we create we learn about ourselves and the world, and our relationship to it. That seems like very effective poetry to me.


A big thank you to Bryce Ellicott for taking the time to talk to Living Poetry! Visit Bryce's excellent blog, One Writer's Mind.

1 comment:

Danny Castillones Sillada said...

Hi Amy,

The questions that you raised in the interview are salient issues between the poet and his/her poetry. Most often, I read the content of the poem without knowing or considering the author’s personal history. There are poems, however, that I needed to understand the background of the author, particularly biographical and the cultural and political milieu.

In general, though, I agree with Bryce that poetry “isn't static, it is an experience. That experience is a combination of what the author has written, and what the reader brings to the piece.” It is dynamic in a sense that the poet writes with such urgency, from the creative surge of passion. The flow of that passion is like an electrical charge to be felt by the reader through a personal encounter with the poem. The completion of a poem can only happen if it is already revealed to the readers. From then on, the poet has no more control after his/her creative work, whether it is understood or misunderstood.

On the other hand, it is also important that the reader knows who is the writer and to whom his/her particular poem is addressed to. The ‘consummation’ of creative output can occur only when it is felt and experienced by a particular audience or condition in a society. Although the poet or the reader may not be conscious of the poem’s final cause, it is inherent that any creative piece of work has its own intended recipient in order to complete the poetic revelation of truth.

Thank you, Amy, for another enriching topic :)